How Starting A Little Blog Changed My Life And Career Path

Two years ago I read an article in a prominent business magazine discussing the importance of having a blog for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit. The article expressed how blogging not only builds brand awareness, whatever that may be, but it also broadens your network ten-fold. We all know it’s not so much about what you do – it’s who you know. Equipped with this new knowledge, my passion for writing and storytelling, and my desire to do something “more” with my life, I started Mother’s Guide to Sanity.  At the time I was still working around the clock and barely making my day-to-day obligations, but I knew if I made time for this new venture it would lead to amazing opportunities – and it has.  Not only has my blog given me a voice in the online world, but it has also renewed my faith and confidence in myself from a business perspective.

These last two years have been a roller coaster and opened doors for me I never thought possible. My continued success in the blogging world coupled with my extensive experience in the corporate world has allowed me to start my own freelance business where I write any business-to-business or business-to-consumer materials, as well as consult small businesses on how to grow their brand and network through blogging and social media. I’ve also been invited to host speaking engagements where I discuss topics ranging from budgeting and forecasting to marketing and product launch and establishing your brand in today’s market. Lastly, I landed gigs as a contributing writer for Dot Complicated by Randi Zuckerberg and Scary Mommy by Jill Smokler, both of which are NYT Bestselling Author’s.  As if this wasn’t enough, I launched a second business with Rodan + Fields Dermatologists.  This is all in just two short years.

bgsd If you are thinking of starting a blog (or a business) here are some helpful tips I’ve learned over the last two years.

  • Believe in yourself. The question you need to ask yourself right now is, “Why NOT me?” All you need is confidence, the Internet and a voice. Don’t depend on others to believe in you. At first many won’t understand what you’re doing or look at you like you’re crazy, but remember it’s not their job to believe in you – it’s yours. They’ll come around eventually.
  • Don’t be afraid of failure. Failing is relative. Make goals for yourself, which are attainable, and when you do meet some – it’s a win!  When you’re realistic with yourself and your timeline for success you’ll find it easier to meet your goals.  If you don’t meet a certain goal, pick yourself up and keep going. Your next big break just may be lurking around the corner.
  • Don’t take things personal.  Everyone has an opinion and that’s just what they are – opinions. When you put yourself out there, there’s always someone who will try to discourage or discredit you. Sometimes feedback can be a gift but it can also be a curse. Try to surround yourself with positive, likeminded, and supportive people.
  • Use the Buddy System. Work is always more fun when you partner with someone. I encourage you to buddy up with a person you admire and make them your accountability partner. My success would not have happened as quickly or have been as sweet if it wasn’t for my new friends and business partners encouraging me each and every day.
  • Network. Go out. Meet people. Join groups. Attend conventions. Every city has Associations, Fundraisers, Networking groups, etc. Spend a few hours a week connecting, whether that be in person or online. Be social and your business will grow. Also, always ask how you can help someone else, even if you’re unsure if they can help you. Karma is real – and helping others grow their business will only ensure the growth of yours.
  •  Talk – A lot. Always speak about your new ventures to anyone who will listen. Use social media to connect and inform. Even if no one responds with a “like”, don’t worry because they are watching.
  • Step outside your comfort zone.  I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Once you have the confidence to do this, you’ll soon find new talents you never knew you had. At first I was afraid to put myself out there because of how judgmental people can be, but for every negative comment there have been ten positive ones.
  • DON’T GIVE UP. This is MOST IMPORTANT! Rome was not built in a day. Those who only strive for instant success and gratification will not succeed. Look at everything as an investment. Do research on people you admire and I guarantee most of them were not an overnight success. You want to build a business with a strong foundation, not build a house of cards.  If you give up to soon or try to take short cuts, you’re just setting yourself up to fail.

give up Treat any new venture like a business and it will reward you like a business. Mother’s Guide to Sanity is far from being a profound pool of knowledge and it doesn’t dramatically change other people’s lives, however it does spread joy and has opened many doors for me. No, I haven’t found a cure for cancer (yet!), but I’ve met amazing people, sharpened my skills, started a business, and made a lot of parents laugh along the way. What more could I ask for?

Here’s to the dreamers!

XO, Holly

Managing Work Expectations in a Plugged-In-World

By now we all know that managing life, family, and a career can sometimes seem impossible. With the advancement of technology over the last two decades, work tasks have become much easier. However, these advancements have created an always-accessible work expectation. Having worked in corporate America for over a decade, the most important thing I’ve learned is how imperative it is to set boundaries not only for yourself – but for your superiors as well.

Setting boundaries and adhering to them promotes a healthy work-life balance. Working hard does not mean working longer hours or being plugged-in at all times. In fact, working longer hours has proven to be unproductive. The more time you allow yourself to complete a task, the more time you will take to do so. Before long you’ll find yourself overwhelmed and the quality of your work will inevitably suffer.

Working hard by working smart is the key to a successful balance. You must know your limits and know when it’s necessary to unplug. If you allow your colleagues to always interrupt your personal time – this will become habit. If you answer client emails at midnight – this will become their future expectation. Once these behaviors are set, there’s no turning back. I spent many years learning this the hard way. What started out as kind gestures, quickly turned into the status quo.  Eventually this environment I created took over my life.

Working after birth

(Picture of me the day after I gave birth – still working)

Accessibility can be beneficial if you know how to manage it. Technology allows you to work from anywhere, but it also allows you to always work. Here are some tips to assist you in learning how to manage your accessibility.

Each day periodically use the DND (Do not disturb) button on your phone.

If you are up against a deadline try to limit all your distractions for at least an hour. You’ll be amazed at how much you get done. Use this button on your cell phone once you get home too, even if it’s only a few nights a week. It allows you to focus on your family and enjoy your free time without constantly checking email or text messages.

Learn to say “No”.

Don’t get the reputation of always saying, “Yes!” Once the word gets out, everyone will bring his or her concerns and projects to you. You have enough on your plate, so it is perfectly acceptable to decline from time to time.

Vacation means you’re on vacation.

Answering emails and making calls while on vacation is a big mistake. It’s rare to even take a vacation, so why not enjoy it? If you seem available, work will make you available.

Prioritize your tasks.

If something can wait until tomorrow – do it tomorrow. I used to be that person who had to clear my desk before I went home. Once I learned how to delegate and prioritize my work in order of importance, I was able to manage my day and get home at a decent hour. Set a goal of what you need to accomplish and work toward it in your allotted time. Anything remaining will be there when you wake up – I promise.

Set your expectation early on.

Let people know your limits. Do not answer calls or emails unless it’s an urgent matter. If you do respond, let people know it was the exception. Don’t feel guilty about taking and enjoying free time – you and your family deserve it.

What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

I attended the Blogher conference this weekend where the Keynote speaker was Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.  During her panel she asked the audience, “What would you do if you were not afraid?” This question resonated with me and I found myself writing down goals which have been put on hold due to fear. I left the session more inspired than ever.

Why do people, particularly women, hold themselves back?  Are we afraid of failure? Afraid people will think we’re stupid? Do we feel we’re not deserving? For me, the answer is yes to all the above. In my professional career I have struggled with each of these fears often, and I am certian they have held me back. In hindsight, there were many times I should have stuck up for myself or demanded things I knew I deserved.  But what’s more frustrating – this is no ones fault but my own.

As a way to inspire myself I began to reflect on those times I did face fear head on, took that leap of faith, and came out stronger on the other side.  Reflection has always given me strength when facing adversity. I often tell myself: hell, if I pulled that sh*t off, I got this! Also, sharing your stories, just like Sheryl Sandberg did, only encourages and inspires others.  Here is one of my stories I would like to share with you:

How did a Texas girl end up in Chicago?

In 2004, I was living in San Antonio, Texas.  I had essentially grown up there.  I had recently graduated college after almost seven years of searching for ways to pay for each semester myself.  This was a very proud moment for me, yet I still was not happy. There wasn’t much opportunity career wise and I was in and out of horrible relationships. I was in a city that didn’t suit me, but I stayed because I was scared. It was all I really knew. Where would I go? How would I get there? I am not strong enough to move by myself.  My dream was to move to Chicago after visiting a friend who had recently moved there.  During my first visit, I immediately fell in love.  I remember thinking: dreams happen here. I also remember seeing very attractive men on every street corner.  This was a single girls play land!

Once I returned home, the excitement wore off and the fear set back in.  I can’t afford it there.  I only know one person.  How could I make it in that big city? All my friends in Texas thought I was crazy too, and I am sure in the back of their minds they thought the same exact thing as I did: she will never do it. 

Later that summer my lease had run its course and I was about to sign another one. A week before signing, my roommate told me she was moving in with her boyfriend. There I was, about to be homeless.  I didn’t have enough money saved to pay all the deposits for a new place by myself, and I didn’t have any other roommate options.  At the time I felt helpless, scared and alone.  I was in my mid-twenties and couldn’t support myself, couldn’t find a roommate, couldn’t find a job with a decent salary, and couldn’t find a nice man to date.

Two days later, my friend in Chicago had notified me about a potential opportunity.  She warned me it may not be the best, however it would get me to Chicago.   This was my chance. It was now or never. Before thinking anything through, I turned in my notice at work.  In the next two weeks I sold everything I owned in my apartment.  If it didn’t fit in my car, it wasn’t coming. The money I made selling off all my belongings was the only money I had to get me to Chicago.

When the day arrived and my car was packed, I remember looking in my rear view mirror and I started crying. This was it, the only things I had left to my name were my clothes, a small television and my Chihuahua, Rocco. Was I making the right decision? For the first time in my life, I knew that even if it was the wrong decision, I was going to make it work.  I had to, I had no choice.

Just me and you buddy!
Just me and you buddy!

I got on the road and headed to Dallas so I could stop and see my mother and sister. My mother, of course, was nervous and didn’t want me to go, however she knew at that point there was no stopping me.  Just before I left, my sister looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I’m so proud of you.  I would not have the courage to do this. I know you are going to be fine, and if anyone can make it, it’s you.”  In my heart, I knew she was right.

Once I got to Chicago, I lived at a hotel in the suburbs I was working at for three months. My friend was more than generous by letting me stay on her couch on the weekends, so I could be in the city and start planning my life. Truth be told, the first year was very difficult. A week didn’t go by I wasn’t wanting to throw in the towel and head back home. I was homesick, people made fun of me for saying “y’all”, and I was broke. There were several months I had to hide my car in different neighborhoods so Tyrone from GMAC didn’t come repossess it. Many bills were paid late and often, but I stuck it out. If anything, my pride was what kept me from going home.  I didn’t want to be the girl who had to come back with her tail between her legs.

Another six months went by and I met Adam, my now husband. Being broke is much better when you have someone to be broke with. He encouraged me and promised one day, things would be better. And they were.  Shortly after that, I landed a job at a top luxury hotel in the city, and best of all, Adam asked me to marry him.

Right after we got engaged
Right after we got engaged

If I would have let fear hold me back that day in 2004, I would not be here.  Anytime someone asks me if I ever thought I would be where I am today I always respond, “NO fu**ing way!”

This story may seem like no big deal to some.  You may even know people who do this type of thing everyday. The point is, I thought I couldn’t do it and I proved myself wrong. I use this story to give me strength, and share it in hopes it will inspire others. We all have a story to tell, we’re not born with the answers, so I encourage you to start sharing yours.

 “There are two ways to face fear. Say f**k it and run, or face it and recover.” – LeanIn.Org




Sometimes the Grass Is Greener on the Other Side

People are quick to say, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”  But what if it is?  How would you know what shade the grass is, if you are not willing to see the other side?   Do people say this out of fear?  To convince themselves they don’t deserve better? Sometimes a different shade of green is exactly what we all need.

I am that woman. The one who spent her entire twenties and half of her thirties working around the clock.  The one who was always accepting challenges head on, and filling up my day with projects for other people.  In hindsight, I did miss out on a lot of things; a real college experience, traveling, family time, days spent soaking up the sun by the lake.  You name it, I missed it.  My parents did what they could to help, but I essentially paid (actually am still paying for – damn loans!) for my own education. This meant all work and no play.

You know that's right!
You know that’s right!

On top of that I had an intense desire to succeed.  I wanted better for myself and for my kids. I wanted to have nice things, be able to pay for college, and take those family trips my family was never able to. That drive for success landed me here.  Yes, I am successful and have a dream job to many. I worked very hard and sacrificed a lot to get here.

Even on the rare occasion we do get to do fun things, I do not have a trained mind to stop and really enjoy the moment.  I am always forward thinking.  What should I make for dinner?  I wonder if my client returned their contract.  STOP woman, you are at a pool, in Miami, in the dead of winter in Chicago. Relax. Sooo, I wonder if that woman did send back her contract, let me just check my email real quick.  Of course, one email turns into twenty-five emails, and then a phone call, then anxiety, then there goes my fun pool time. By the end of each day, I am mentally and physically exhausted.

This was a true statement..
This was a true statement..

But the success and money were worth it, right?  Yes, the experience, the confidence I gained in myself and the connections I have made were absolutely worth it.  On the other hand, it was not worth missing my son take his first steps, say his first words,  watch him play on a sunny afternoon, or ruin my Miami pool day.  This is time I can never get back.

So, since I make sh*t happen and was tired of complaining and watching my life go by, I decided to do something about it.  Take that leap of faith I have dreamed about. I resigned from my Director position, at a company I truly loved, after eight years.  I want to see if the grass is, in fact, greener on the other side. I knew I made the right decision because the Pope and I resigned the same day. He, apparently, had enough too. I will chalk this up as divine intervention.  If the Pope could do it, so could I.


It has been several weeks since my last day.  The first week was definitley scary.  What did I do?  Will we be ok financially?  Did I make the right decision?  The next week it felt like vacation. Now, it just feels great. Liberating in fact. I can do without daily Starbucks and other things I don’t need, if it means not being too tired to read my son a book before bed.

My theory is my career will always be there.  I am a career driven person, that will never go away either.  In the meantime, I will focus on expanding my family, writing and dedicating my time to my most important role of all… mom.

My advice to you:  Take that PTO.  Don’t save it for a rainy day that never comes.  Spend a day with your family without sneaking off to check your email on your phone. Spend a day doing nothing but stuff for you. But above all, don’t miss important milestones in your kids life. Because those my friend, you will regret.

So is the grass greener on the other side you ask?  In my case, so far, yes.


The ‘Constant’ Pursuit of Happiness

I recently came to the realization that I am never satisfied.  By satisfied, I mean I am always on a quest for the next level.  This pertains to my career, my marriage, my accomplishments or just life in general. Trying to find balance in my perpetual pursuit of happiness has been difficult and exhausting.  What does “having it all” really mean? When is my “all” going to be enough?

Being a driven person is something I pride myself in, however it can also be a curse.  I often think:  Once I accomplish (insert goal) I will be happier, or I will feel more satisfied.  Only to find when I reach that goal, I immediately start looking for something else to give me further feeling of worth.  It’s only when others notice my accomplishments that I say to myself,  Holy cr*p, I can’t believe I did that either!


Sometimes I confuse being driven with taking on way too much, and missing out on what is important today.  I’ve had this discussion with many fellow colleagues, friends and family.  All of who concur with these findings.  Is it an addiction?  An adrenaline rush, we long for?  Is it society pushing us to our limits with their American Dream mantras? When did we lose sight of today in our continuous efforts to be better, bigger, and greater tomorrow?

Where is the Dali Lama when you need him?  Does anyone have his number?


Once you get to the top, is it worth it?  I always say, “It is much easier to get to the top, then it is to stay at the top.” Is the money worth the stress? Mo’ money, mo’ problems! Is all your success worth missing important milestones in your child’s life?  When are the opportunity costs worth the reward?   This is something I struggle with daily. I don’t want to sound ungrateful or give the impression I am not happy, because I most certainly am.  Things could always be much worse, and trust me, they have been. I just don’t want to have any qualms later in life, wishing I had taken that vacation, or regretting not spending more time with my family.


So what now? Learn to say no? Not care about the expectation of me from others? Put me and my family first? Yes, yes and yes. This is my quest for this year, and I invite you to join me.  Time waits for no one, not even you my friend.


H.B.I.C Didn’t Come Easy

Listen up.  Becoming an HBIC did not come easy. We are all (let’s face it) HBIC’s at home, but I am referring to work. What is HBIC you ask?  Head B*tch in Charge.

Now, we spent a lot of time working toward HBIC before having kids.  Being kid-less was an advantage, as the eighty hour work weeks were quite common.  The stress levels and quick decision making actually prepared us to be moms, which let’s be honest here, is the hardest job of all.


As our families expanded, the balancing act became more difficult.  Sacrifices are something that come along with “having it all”.  I use BIG air quotes when saying “having it all” because everyone’s ‘having it all’ has different meanings.  My meaning of ‘having it all’ is: having a loving, supportive husband; having a career path of my own which makes me feel smart and independent; and having kids that I get to spend time with.


It takes a certain drive and dedication to not only have your family to look after, but also have your work family to look after.  Everybody always wants a piece of you, and your time is limited.  A friend emailed me this week and the subject line read:   The thing about being a Director…..The body read:  When the F*CK do you have time to do YOUR work???  At the end of the day, you figure it out my friends.

This is us, except with boobs.
This is us, except with boobs.

If HBIC is something you aspire to be, here are some tips that helped us succeed:

  • Sh*t is going to be tough, get used to it. It NEVER gets easy. Consider it a challenge.
  • Be confident in your decisions, people are looking up to you.  Even if you don’t know what the hell is going on, pretend you do.
  • Know what you are worth.  When you know, others will know.
  • Build relationships and be respectful of peoples time.
  • Do it because you love it.  Not for the money.
  • Always do the right thing. People will have more faith in you and your decisions if you are not rotten.
  • Open your ears! Listening gets you more than talking does.
  • Know you will not be CEO making a ga-zillion dollars in a year (new grads tend to think this).
  • Never say you are too busy.  Even if you are, I guarantee someone is busier than you.
  • Don’t be a gossip pants.  Chances are you have no idea what you are talking about.
  • Network… a lot.
  • Always follow up. It shows you are on top of your sh*t.
  • Take chances.  If you are passionate about what you do, others will be passionate too.

There you have it.  Now let’s go out and rule the world!

 “An effective leader does not control; she inspires and influences. As a leader I try to figure out what peoples dreams are.  In most cases the only thing holding them back is themselves.” – Candice Carpenter